Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Of Elevations, Portages, and the Challenges of Building in Colonial New Orleans

Let's consider the geographer's method of evaluating "site and situation" for New Orleans. After Katrina renewed the discussion of coastal wetland protection, the Times-Picayune produced this simple but informative animation about the creation and destruction of Southern Louisiana's coastline.

Here is a link to the original plan for New Orleans, rendered a century later.

A third-generation rendition based on Pauger's Map of New Orleans
 We'll consider the New Orleans "site vs. situation" argument as well. But to do so, we must first walk through the geographical reasoning offered for the location of the city.

The NOAA map of Katrina flooding in 2005 reveals the continuity of the elevation dilemma
This map depicts the 1849 crevasse mentioned by Peirce Lewis. Note that it depicts flooding due to backwater. We'll talk about that a bit.

A useful map that I found on the website Statemaster.com which seems to be a clearninghouse of public-domain information on individual states.
To get an idea of some of the "2.0" building techniques in New Orleans, here are a couple pictures of what was once the Old Spanish Custom Collector's House at the corner of Grand Route St. John and Moss Street. Built in 1784, it's original brick-in-post construction was recently made visible during an ongoing renovation. The house sold a few years back at auction to Lyndon Saia, whose family started the Saia Trucking Company in Houma, La in 1924.

Mr. Saia also wrote some really interesting blog entries about the renovation. Worth a look!

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